Summary: The Love of Jesus the Christ illuminated
March 22, 2020
JESUS is LIFE Over Death
In my years of ministry, I have preached many, many funerals. Some were very difficult because of my personal love of the deceased or the surviving family. Once, I preached eight funerals in one week. I know the pain of the loss of a loved one. Last December, I attended the funeral of my 21-year-old granddaughter whose earthly life was snuffed out by a freak accident. In the last four years, we have buried my mom, a sister, a sister-in-law, and a granddaughter. Today, we have a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law in hospice.
It is always comforting to acknowledge the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ at a funeral. During that journey on the highway of roses to Jerusalem, Jesus knew exactly what was waiting for Him – torture, pain, anguish and a horrible death. When He died and was buried, He descended to hell for three days before He was resurrected and ascended to heaven. Does it give you comfort to KNOW that when your believing loved one passes from earthly life, he or she ascends to heaven at the very instant of death?
As we look at today’s gospel reading, we are moved by the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. To me it is important to consider the other events taking place. Keep the words FAITH, TRUST and BELIEVING in the forefront of your mind. First, we see Jesus delaying his journey to Bethany where His beloved very close and dear friends are gathered and praying for their sick brother, Lazarus. Why? As I read this, it is apparent that He ministers to the masses as He loves and ministers to all equally. Here is where we see God’s love for each of His creation all on the same level.
“Yes indeed, it is good when you truly obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you pay special attention to the rich, you are committing sin, for you are guilty of breaking that law” (James 2:1-4, 8-9).
Therefore, God shows no favoritism or partiality, and the Bible teaches us that we should not either. I like what Warren Wiersbe says along these lines. “It is not important that we Christians are comfortable, but it is important that we glorify God in all that we do.” In the reading Martha and Mary each told Jesus that had He come sooner Lazarus would not have died. These statements were not made in any criticizing manner, rather an acknowledgement. We realize that Jesus could have healed Lazarus from the distance where He was but that was not the miracle that He chose.
We just read that Jesus refers to the death of Lazarus as “sleep”. (verse11) But then in verse 14 He says plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
Jesus does finally go to Bethany and this close family where Lazarus has died and been in the grave for four days. Jesus goes to the tomb (a cave with a stone rolled across the entrance). He says: “Take away the stone”. Verse 39
Note – Jesus could have simply ordered the stone to roll out of the way, we realize that. So, why did He have them take away the stone? My belief is that it provided a means of participation by the bystanders. We see that in every church service and especially in corporate prayer. By participating, we become more than just bystanders,
Martha spoke up and exclaimed that the stench of death would be overpowering if the stone was rolled away. Jesus calmed her by reminding Martha and all present: “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Jesus said: GLORY OF GOD, not His glory but glory to God.
Jesus prayed to the Father God and asked for the miracle as a means of showing God’s glory and that Jesus was sent by God. Jesus cried out in a loud voice (verse43): “Lazarus, come forth!” It is important for us to consider the notation in verse 44. Lazarus was bound in grave clothes. That means that he was wrapped very tightly in cloth soaked in an assortment of ointments and spices. Yet at the command of Jesus: “Loose him and let him go.” Verse 44
Just maybe we can see ourselves bound in the graveclothes as Satan does not want to let go. BUT for believers, Jesus speaks those very words for each of HIS believers- “Loose him/her and let him/her go.”
Your resurrection and ascension are no less than that of Lazarus. All that we need to do is profess our love, our belief and our faith in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That is NOT a one-time thing, it is an ongoing thing. That is the real purpose behind reciting the Apostles Creed regularly. We do that not just saying words but declaring truth.